Posts tagged ‘coal’

Sustainability Panel: April 14, 2014


Last night students, professors, and administrators gathered to discuss sustainability options in reference to UNC’s endowment portfolio and its investments. The panel featured Dr. Carol Hee, Bill Currens, and Christopher Demetropoulos.

Dr. Carol Hee is the director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and a professor at the Kenan-Flagler Business School. She stated last night that the “economics of renewables are showing a more favorable trend” and presented a slideshow on ways UNC could be more of a leader in sustainability.


Her presentation included seven recommendations for the University:

1. UNC should prioritize climate literacy to educate internal and external stakeholders

  • The education budget should be increased

2. UNC’s scientific research should be viewed as a valuable contributor to NC’s economy

3. Stakeholders interested in the growth of renewables should engage policy makers

  • Advocates should link renewables to economic opportunity

4. UNC should continue to model climate stewardship and UNC stakeholders should recognize the associated rewards

5. Additional financial support should be given to sustainability initiatives

6. UNC should implement a comprehensive approach to sustainable investing

7. More students and community members should take advantage of the educational opportunities offered

  • There are over 330 sustainability classes offered at the University

She pointed out that UNC already has goals of becoming climate neutral by 2050, and coal free by 2020. The first step towards this will be the conversion of the coal plant on campus which will be converted to biomass by May 1st, 2020.

After Carol’s presentation Bill Currens, Duke Energy’s vice president of investor relations, demonstrated his slide show on Duke’s energy portfolio, and where they expect to go in the future. Duke Energy, founded in 1904, is currently the largest utility in the United States, and as such they have a responsibility to listen to their consumers with regard to where they want their money invested.


Renewable portfolio standards in North Carolina require that 12.5% of the state’s energy come from renewable energy sources by 2021. Bill Currens highlighted the fact that Duke Energy must comply with this law by throwing renewables into the mix of Duke’s ever-evolving energy portfolio. But he stated somberly that, “in today’s environment its very challenging to run a whole fleet…renewables can be a piece of that”, but not a large piece. He cited problems with battery storage as one of the main reasons the industry would not be adopting more renewables any time soon. Bill says that Duke Energy is “actively exploring battery storage”.

Duke predicts that in 2015 24% of its energy will come from natural gas, 38% from coal, 35% from nuclear, and a measly 3% from renewable sources. When asked why they were not planning on adopting more renewables when students and other customers of Duke Energy were increasingly demanding clean energy sources, he indicated that Duke’s hands are tied. He cited this issue as an industry problem that is slow, and that would take a long time to remedy. Bill says that change can not come with a snap decision, but has to evolve over time. He emphasized the need for a flexibility of energy sources so that Duke would have options when prices on sources went up. The problem is, we don’t have time.

As Carol Hee pointed out last night, the climate is expected to warm by 2 degrees. Scientists say that this may even be too much. We need to take action on this issue now, not wait for it to evolve. Duke needs to be a leader in this push, as the largest utility in the US, they have a mountain of influence to work from.


The final presenter at the panel was Trillium Asset Management’s Christopher Demetropoulos. Trillium Asset Management works with investors and responsible companies so that they are sure they are investing in responsible, clean energy. They’ve even developed a white paper on how businesses can divest from the fossil fuel industry without hurting their portfolios. He emphasized that divesting from coal would not harm the investments of Universities and other businesses, especially if that divested money were re-invested into the growing renewable energy sector.


Overall, the panel pointed to some important issues in the relationship between persons wanting sustainability and the energy industry. However, it did not push that industry enough to do something quickly. It, at least represents an open and continuing dialogue between students and administrators at the University.

-Tara Nattress

Want more information about the campaign?
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”
Sign our online petition for coal divestment at UNC on
Like our UNC Sierra Student Coalition page on Facebook
Join our UNC Beyond Coal Facebook group
Follow @sscunc for updates on Twitter
Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out


April 15, 2014 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment


At the beginning of February, students from all across North Carolina gathered at NC State. The gathering was a part of NCSEN, otherwise known as North Carolina Student Energy Network. NCSEN is a statewide network of colleges all working towards more renewable energy and a clean future for our state. The network encourages collaboration between schools and students.

Carolina Hansley, a central organizer of NCSEN, put together a retreat on February 1st  for members of the network. The goal of the retreat was to bring members from all across the state together for a weekend. Students came to share ideas, participate in trainings and plan for future events. The ultimate goal of the retreat was to plan a state- wide day of action later in February.

A statewide day of action would involve all of the schools doing a media- worthy action at their school all on the same day. That is exactly what we did. The Day of Action was on February 20th. Schools across North Carolina got students to sign petitions, take photos or participate in a solar spill to promote clean energy. The goal was to draw attention on each campus to the need for renewable energy.

Here on campus, UNC Sierra Student Coalition put together a banner with photo petitions. We collected over 40 photo petitions. People filled in their reasons to the sentence “Duke we want 100% clean energy because….” People had reasons from “I want my children to have a future” to “coal sucks.”  Everyone was really supportive of the cause, and we were able to get the Daily Tar Heel to cover the action.


The retreat and the Day of Action were all leading up to the Association of Student’s Government Meeting on Saturday, February 22nd. At the meeting all NC system schools voted on a resolution drafted by NCSEN with help from UNC system president Tom Ross. The resolution asks Duke Energy to provide the NC system with 100% clean energy. The resolution is to pressure Duke Energy to help us meet the NC Systems schools’ goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Without Duke Energy’s help, this goal will not be reached.

The resolution passed, and UNC-CH was able to be a part of making that possible. A couple of students from Beyond Coal took the photo petition banner to the ASG meeting and held it up to show UNC’s student support for the resolution. The resolution was successful, but there is still more work to be done. NCSEN has the opportunity and potential to leverage their state- network to make progress towards a clean energy future.





(Photos courtesy of Sharanya Thiru)

- Hannah McKinley

Want more information about the campaign?
The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”
Sign our online petition for coal divestment at UNC on
Like our UNC Sierra Student Coalition page on Facebook
Join our UNC Beyond Coal Facebook group
Follow @sscunc for updates on Twitter
Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out


March 18, 2014 at 5:24 am Leave a comment

Stories from Power Shift 2013

Imagine a place where a twelve-year-old Native American girl, standing up for her community, threatened by the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, can work with leading environmentalists like Bill McKibben and Michael Brune to help save her family’s health and her community’s history.


This idea became a reality this weekend. The seven members of the UNC Beyond Coal campaign who attended Power Shift conference experienced similar incredible opportunities.

Approximately 6000 college students and environmental organizers gathered at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh from October 18th to October 20th to make national connections for their campaigns, learn strategies to take back to their campuses, and to get inspired to make serious changes in the world.

Upon our arrival, after a warm welcome from Power Shift volunteers, we were handed a sheet of business cards with our contact information and encouraged to exchange them with people we would meet throughout the weekend.  This set a precedent for the atmosphere of the conference, as even in the lobby of the convention center before the kick-off keynote presentation we spoke with people from campaigns all over the country so we could hear about their successes.

Even before the official conference kick-off, people organized protests outside local businesses like EQT, who supported harming indigenous people of Elsipogtog as they peacefully blockaded the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline over their land.


The excitement for change in Pittsburgh was almost tangible.

The conference officially kicked off with exciting keynote speakers like Bill Peduto, the democratic candidate for the Mayor of Pittsburgh, and Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a twelve year old singer/songwriter advocating for a better quality of life in Indigenous territories who has spoken at the UN conference. These inspirational speakers challenged us to take advantage of everything Power Shift offered to have the best experience possible.


Picture from US Climate Plan

Watch the video here.

The next day of the conference started the numerous workshops and panels, with a selection so large we sat in our housing site wondering how we’d be able to split ourselves up to cover everything that we wanted to see.  Topics ranged from “Protecting Human Health in Fracked Communities” and “Discussions on Food Justice” to anti-oppression trainings and divestment campaign breakout sessions.  We learned a lot of new information from these panels while also taking the opportunity to help lead some like “Getting Creative with Campus Media” and a breakout session focusing on starting your own divestment campaign.

Although we learned a lot from the panels, the best parts of the conference arguably happened outside the walls of the convention center.  Over the weekend we had the pleasure of spending lunch with friends at San Francisco State University, who just successfully divested from fossil fuels, and we attended an impromptu open mic night featuring environmental writers and musicians hoping to showcase their art to a supportive audience.  Also, we stayed in a hostel called the Pittsburgh Project along with many other Power Shifters, which had a game room with plenty of pool tables, ping pong tables, and places to relax and make friendships with like-minded people.  Times like these really supplemented the experience of the weekend. Footage from Open Mic Night 


Now that we’re back on campus we’re pumped and ready to begin more hard work for coal divestment right here at UNC, but we’re so grateful that we had the opportunity to experience everything Power Shift had to offer.

-       Will Schoeffler

Want more information about the campaign?

The Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) is a broad network of high school and college-aged youth from across the country working to protect the environment. The SSC is the youth-led chapter of the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization. Our mission is simple: “to train, empower, and organize youth to run effective campaigns that result in tangible environmental victories and that develop leaders for the environmental movement.”

Want to learn more about the national campaign for university endowments to divest from dirty coal? Check out 


October 25, 2013 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

UNC Student Congress passes resolution in favor of coal divestment!

Just weeks after 77% of UNC’s student body voted in favor of coal divestment, our Student Congress has voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting the university’s $2.1 billion endowment from the dirtiest, most carbon intensive coal mining and coal burning companies in the nation.

The 94th Student Congress of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, as the elected legislative authority of the Student Government of the University, representing all of the 29,278 students of the student body expresses its support for UNC’s endowment divesting from coal companies.

Here is a link to the text of the UNC Student Congress resolution for coal divestment and the press release from the UNC Beyond Coal campaign applauding the resolution of support.

The resolution passed on Tuesday night by a 24-6 vote, which in addition to the referendum will send a strong message to the administration and the Board of Trustees that divestment and the bigger picture of climate change are issues that students at UNC are deeply concerned about and issues that the university must take action on immediately.

The referendum on the student ballot was significant, and it is encouraging to know that such a large percentage of the student body is supportive of the divestment campaign. But the support from Student Congress that we have received is even more significant, as they represent all 29,278 students at UNC Chapel Hill.

Since the results of the election last month were announced, the administration has been unresponsive to our requests to present at the UNC Board of Trustees meeting from March 27th-28th. The Board has no excuse to continue to ignore this issue, and should allow the UNC Sierra Student Coalition to make an educational presentation to them at the meeting. We hope that the resolution that was passed will place even more pressure on the university to divest. But whether we are able to make a presentation or not, we will be at the Board meeting in numbers, and we extend the invitation to all of you to join us. Can you bring a friend?

For more information about our campaign, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and check out our blog.

March 6, 2013 at 5:48 am Leave a comment

Divest from Coal!

Divest from Coal!

LOTS of reasons UNC should divest from coal

January 29, 2013 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

“Coal-Free Shuffle” FLASH DANCE Tomorrow!

Gearing up for the Flash Dance @ UNC tomorrow! Going to be meeting in front of South Building @ 12:50pm.

Details/event on Facebook.

April 14, 2010 at 3:44 am Leave a comment

I ♥ Mountains Week Recap

I <3 Mountains!

Thanks to all the people who came out for I <3 Mountains Week! For those that were unfortunate enough to have missed out, here’s a quick recap:

Starting on March 1st, Coal-Free UNC held “I <3 Mountains Week” to raise awareness about the destructive practice of mountain top removal coal mining. Because, of course, if you heart mountains you try your darndest not to blow them to smithereens.

The week-long event came amidst news that the Red River Coal Company, which provides some of the coal used to power UNC’s cogeneration facility, practices mountain top removal.

We got some attention for our efforts. Check out the articles via the newsobserver and The Daily Tar Heel.

Events included:

  • A concert by cellist Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. The proceeds benefited two organizations who really heart some mountains  – Appalachian Voices and
  • A talk by Austin Hall of Appalachian Voices
  • AND a Mountain Top Removal Demonstration by Coal-Free UNC artistically reinterpreted in the form of paper mache, the video of which can be seen below.

March 13, 2010 at 9:47 pm Leave a comment

Hansen at UNC Cogeneration Plant for Coal Free Campus Campaign

On Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, stopped by UNC’s Cogeneration Plant to voice his support for a Coal-Free UNC, and to encourage other colleges to stop burning coal, which pollutes the environment and contributes to global climate change. Check out Dr. Hansen sporting his Beyond Coal shirt!

Note: this is just the short version. Visit our youtube channel to watch the full length version of the press conference with comments from community member and neighbor to the plant Dr. Pat Leighten, glaciologist and UNC faculty Dr. Jose Rial, and UNC student Stewart Boss.

February 4, 2010 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

James Hansen Coming to Carolina

Dr. James Hansen of NASA and Columbia University will be coming to UNC on Feb. 1st to discuss global climate change. He has kindly agreed to stop by UNC’s Cogeneration Facility the next day on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, to voice his support for a Coal-Free UNC. We are honored to have one of the most prominent climatologists recognize our efforts to get rid of a harmful, dirty and archaic energy source on Carolina’s campus and beyond. If you’re in the area, be sure to stop by! Facebook event RSVP Google doc RSVP

Hansen on why we should phase out coal via

January 31, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

Coal-Free UNC Kick-Off Party 2010!

Last semester we kicked off the Sierra Club Coal-Free Campus Campaign in Chapel Hill. Since our first Kick-Off meeting we’ve been making steady progress to move Carolina Beyond Coal.  Last year, hundreds of students showed they wanted clean energy by working on the campaign and signing our petition to Chancellor Thorp encouraging him to work towards a clean energy future at UNC.

We have the potential to make the campaign even bigger and better this semester. But we need your help! Show the university that we truly care about the environment, our health, and our future. Come out to our Kick-Off Meeting to learn about the campaign and how you can become involved!

The Kick-Off Party will be at 7pm on Jan. 27, Wednesday in Dey Hall. RSVP at the link and we hope to see you there!

Sierra Club Beyond Coal Director Bruce Nilles on the campaign:

January 25, 2010 at 5:12 am Leave a comment

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